BOE approves Roper's contract

By Thomas Wilson

The Elizabethton City School System has a new superintendent, but the Board of Education didn't approve his contract without serious opposition from one board member concerning his salary. The BOE voted 4-1 to make Dr. David M. Roper the system's next director.
   "I do not agree with the contract," said Catherine Wooten Armstrong. "We are a small school system with five schools and 2,100 students. I don't feel the position justifies a $96,000 salary."
   The three-year contract approved by the board reads that it will pay Roper a base salary of $83,000. The contract also says he will receive annual payments of $3,994 for automobile expenses, $2,508 for health and life insurance, $5,000 for a retirement annuity and $1,500 for professional development meetings.
   Armstrong said she's worried the $96,000 package would include additional benefits that are not spelled out in the contract and that are afforded the system's faculty and administrators, raising Roper's salary even more. Armstrong defended her concerns citing the fact that the school system's teachers received a pay raise of 1.5 percent for the 2004 fiscal year.
   Wednesday night's vote effectively ended five months of meetings, interviews and negotiations for board members. Dr. Judy Blevins resigned in July to become superintendent of Campbell County Schools. The board voted to spend $7,500 on the Superintendent Search Service of the Tennessee School Boards Association to find its next director of schools.
   The board set a base salary figure of $83,000 annually prior to negotiating with Roper, who has been superintendent of Roanoke City Schools in Roanoke, Ala., since 1999. His existing contract with that school system runs through 2005. Interim Director Richard Culver will remain as the system's top executive until Roper comes on board in January.
   The school board's December meeting is scheduled for Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m.